White cockatoos, also known as Umbrella cockatoos, are large parrots with white feathers and black or brown/reddish eyes, and dark gray legs and beaks. The "umbrella" name is due to its backward-bending, broad crest, which opens up like an umbrella and fans out. When lowered, the feathers of the crest fold back over the bird's head and so the crest is then hardly visible. These cockatoos have some lemon colored plumage on the underside of their wings and tail, and this color flashes when they fly. Males and females both have a pale blue ring around their eyes, males having a dark brown iris and females having a reddish iris. Females also usually have smaller heads and beaks than males.
The White cockatoo is a native of the Indonesian islands of Northern and Central Moluccas (aka Maluku Islands), specifically, the islands of Bacan, Kasiruta, Halmahera, Tidore, Ternate, and Mandioli. They also live on the islands of Obi and Bisa, but it is thought that these birds are escaped pets. White cockatoos inhabit wooded areas and are found in open woodland and forests, mangroves, swamps, and agricultural areas. They are especially common around the edges of clearings and rivers. Most of their time is spent in the tree canopy.
Habits and lifestyle
White cockatoos typically occur singly, in pairs or small groups, and sometimes in flocks numbering up to fifteen. They gather in the afternoon in groups of as many as fifty birds. Although these birds are social, aside from mating pairs, they usually do not establish close bonds with each other. They are diurnal birds and are typically sedentary, although some can be nomadic, wandering in search of food. White cockatoos communicate with their mates by means of a variety of noises and gestures. They scratch one another during mating rituals. They have been seen banging pieces of wood on logs and trees to warn other birds that their territory belongs to them. White cockatoos use loud vocalizations, sometimes for communication. They make a loud, grating scream or screech and they may hiss when alarmed.
flock, company, pandemonium
Diet and nutrition
White cockatoos are monogamous, a mating pair staying together for life. In the mating season, males strut and fan their crests to attract a female. The mating season is usually from December to March. Pairs leave their flock to seek a place to nest in a tree. They typically build a nest in a hollow of a very large, tall tree. The female lays two eggs, sometimes three. Males and females share the incubating of the eggs, which usually lasts 30 days. The parents typically raise only one chick. If the first one that hatches is healthy, they raise that one. If the chick is unhealthy or malformed, they raise the second one. Chicks learn to fly when they are 3 months old but still depend on their parents for a further 2 to 3 weeks. When a chick is capable of caring for itself, the family rejoins the flock. White cockatoos are sexually mature within six years.
The greatest threat to White cockatoos in the wild is illegal trapping for trading in cage birds. Habitat loss and hunting are further threats.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of White cockatoos is 43,000-183,000 individuals. However, this species' numbers are decreasing today and it is classified as endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List.
White cockatoos have an important role in dispersing seeds - which is important for the evolution and ecology of plants. Furthermore, their nests may be used by other animals during the non-breeding season.
Fun facts for kids
- The major purpose of a cockatoo's crest is communication. When raised, it can indicate a number of intentions: displaying for its mate; calling its flock members; defending its flock or territory; or expressing curiosity, excitement, fear surprise, or frustration. If approaching a cockatoo, the raised crest may warn not to touch them - at the risk of being bitten. The lowering of a crest may indicate friendliness, calmness, and general approachability.
- The word "cockatoo" originates from the Malay word for these birds, "kakaktua," meaning "older sister”.
- As with all birds, cockatoos use their body language for communication. When birds use the feathers on their face to cover their beaks, they convey a welcoming, non-aggressive message.
- These are powder-down birds, whose feathers produce a dust that can sometimes be quite heavy. Preening distributes this dust throughout their plumage, providing important waterproofing to cope with a tropical, wet climate.
- To bathe, white cockatoos fly through wet leaves in the treetops or hang upside-down during the rain.
- White cockatoos are very smart and inquisitive birds. They are able to use a branch for scratching their backs. They also climb and do gymnastics.